Dessie Departure Day. We were up earlier than usual so that our luggage could be loaded into the pickup truck at 6:30 a.m. After breakfast we thanked our cook Ayu and her two helpers, then we carried our dishes to the kitchen for the last time. We left at 7 a.m., waving goodbye to the children who were lined up against the building in the rain, waiting for breakfast.

Today was market day, and we saw people everywhere walking along on both sides of the road, and even in the middle of the road, with our bus driver tooting his horn frequently to warn people and animals of our approach. We passed camels, oxen, donkeys, women and children loaded with long, thin sticks of wood, straw, eucalyptus leaves, and huge plastic jugs of every hue for carrying water. People walk four or five miles to the next town either to buy or to sell. We passed a large herd of camels taking up the whole road, and as we madly snapped photos the camel driver raised his fist and shouted at us. We ignored him and kept on going.

We began a steep climb out of the lowlands on a cloudy, overcast day. We needed a bathroom break, but our driver couldn’t find a suitable place to stop because so many people were on the road. Finally at 11:00 a.m. he spotted a clump of trees near a river, and we scattered in every direction. The short rest rejuvenated us and everyone hauled out lime and chili almonds, beef jerky, licorice, power bars, and goldfish. We approached a very dusty stretch of road and all the top windows were slammed shut simultaneously.

Ethiopians bring a new meaning to the phrase “making something out of nothing.” The natural resources God has provided – rocks, leaves, wood – are used in many ways, as well as the iron in the hillsides. Nothing is wasted. Even the sheets of stickers with all the stickers gone will be used. This is a far cry from our “throw-away” society in Silicon Valley.

We stopped in front of a roadside shop in a small village in case anyone wanted to buy something. The continuous banter and level of hilarity among us reached a crescendo. [At this point, we are tempted to share some of the many “inside jokes” that our team shared, but we are concerned they won’t translate. Suffice it to say we laughed long and hard during much of our bus ride.] In another village, we went past a Shell station where a camel was just pulling in. We wondered if he was stopping to buy cigarettes.

We slowed to a crawl on a patch of road where construction, three tunnels, rocks and mud caused us to jolt up and down, bumpety-bump, bumpety-thud. We took another break at 1:00 p.m., and here came the shepherd boys with the hats again, along with an older man with a wicked-looking whip. Pastor Mattewos picked it up and cracked the whip like an expert. Then we spotted five or six baboons, and we went running up the hills for photos.

On the approach to Addis we saw green, grassy pastures (40% of Ethiopia is permanent pasture) with towering mountains in the distance. God has blessed Ethiopia with spectacular beauty. Inside the city we saw street vendors selling ears of corn propped up vertically in sets of 10 or 15, holding little fans on the ground to stoke the coals that roast the corn. After freshening up at the Ghion Hotel, we had dinner at The Cottage, a Christian restaurant close by, then called it a day, glad to have survived Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and preparing our hearts for our visit to Pastor Mattewos’ church tomorrow.